CBSN

Looting, Lawlessness Reign In Iraq

IRAQ: Looters push a safe out from a bank after tearing it open in Baghdad Thursday, April 10, 2003. American forces nearby made little effort to stop the widespread looting in the capital.
AP
As coalition forces drove the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime from yet another of Iraq's major cities, many Iraqis took to the streets as they have in Basra, Baghdad and Kirkuk, not to celebrate, but to loot.

Mosul became the latest city to fall into coalition hands, but, as CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, that doesn't mean it's under coalition control.

"The city of Mosul is in a state of complete anarchy," Pizzey reports. "Looters have run rampant. Tearing apart every government building, every building that's been owned by anyone in the government. Just ripping it to pieces, taking out fittings, furniture, I literally even saw the kitchen sink being taken out."

Lawlessness continued to spread in Baghdad on Friday even as the fighting dwindled to occasional bursts of machine-gun fire. Thousands of Iraqis — including entire families — went on looting sprees and plundered the engineering and nursing colleges.

Security is still a high priority for Marines in Baghdad, CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan reports. "Not just their own security, but that of the people of Iraq, as well. And that's why they're guarding buildings like hospitals, to keep them running and protect them from looters."

They're trained for combat. But they've become peacekeepers and politicians.

Officers with the 7th Marine Regiment said they received orders Thursday night to try to stop looting. The regiment planned to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew Friday in the area it patrols in eastern Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Michael Belcher, a battalion commander, said his priorities were first to protect key structures, such as the power system, and second to safeguard humanitarian sites like hospitals and aid distribution centers. Commercial buildings are last, he said.

"If I see them tearing down electrical infrastructure in some of these facilities, I'll step in to stop it," Belcher said. "What we found so far is that if you confront the looters, they'll put it down and go away."

Children as young as 10 and entire families — mother, father and children — took part in the looting.

"Tell the Americans to stop the killing and the looting. We can't live like this much longer, with Muslims looting other Muslims," said 41-year-old Jabryah Aziz. "I need to feel safe so I can go and collect my food ration."

The nursing college at Baghdad University was sacked along with the Engineering College Al-Mustansiriyah. Looters left with light fixtures, desks, water coolers and air conditioners.

At the Information Ministry, dozens of looters hauled out sofas, tables, chairs, electronic equipment and a refrigerator.

Fires burned throughout that part of the city. The Trade Ministry was still smoldering, apparently as a result of arson, as was one of the main markets in the city center.

Looters used stolen trucks to carry off their booty. Others used cars or pushcarts. Some of the cars had license plates indicating they were from outside the city.

Cars were stolen off the streets. If the thieves could not start the engines, they towed the cars away.

Bands of looters also roaming the residential areas, casing homes to see if the residents were home. Journalists trying to talk to the looters were robbed of money and cameras.

In some neighborhoods, residents erected street barricades of tiles, huge rocks and sandbags to fend off looters.

Taleb Abdel-Razaq, who works in a coffee shop, stood in central Baghdad and watched looters coming out of government departments and stores with their plunder

"I cannot believe it," he said. "Are these really Iraqis? What happened to their honor and their patriotism? This is our country. How could they do this? If they have to loot, fine. But why should they torch everywhere they go?"

Long lines formed outside bakeries, garbage piled up on the streets along with debris from two days of looting.

U.S. troops hammered on the toppled statue of Saddam in a central square, breaking off pieces as souvenirs.

"It's memorabilia, it's for us being here, what we've done and what's to come, what the Iraqi people will have," said Marine Sgt. Leigh Hahn. "It's hopefully a new start for them, and down with the old and hope something else will rise up."

U.S. troops also worked to hold key intersections and manned checkpoints, on high alert against suicide attacks by hardcore Saddam Hussein loyalists.

"I feel like I'm in Beirut, Lebanon, waiting for the suicide bombers," said Army Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp. "We know they're holed up on the other side of the river and scattered around the city."

On Thursday night, a man strapped with explosives blew himself up at a checkpoint near the Saddam City section of Baghdad. Four Marines were seriously wounded.

A short time later, a man started walking toward U.S. soldiers stationed at an intersection near the government's tourism department. The soldiers, on edge against the possibility of a suicide attack, fired four warning shots, but the man kept coming. They opened fire. When they found his body in the morning, he was unarmed.

In the Al-Mansour district in western Baghdad, pro-Saddam bands of Arab volunteers manned sandbagged positions, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles. Residents said they were mostly Syrians.